Students say Dale Garland taught them to succeed in and out of class
Dale Garland, a teacher at Durango High School, will retire after 31 years of teaching social studies and, according to students, life lessons in mindset and positivity.
“It’s been a career of helping people learn, helping people find their passions, and helping people become better human beings,” Garland said in an interview with The Herald of Durango.
Garland taught social studies, but he also served as dean of students. His commitment to DHS extended far beyond the classroom. During his time in high school, he ran the Knowledge Bowl club, the SCUBA Club, and the Ski Club; he has advised the DHS Student Council and DHS Ambassadors; and he was an assistant coach for the cross-country team.
“Dale has completely changed my life,” said Emy Mattox, a now-grad senior who met Garland through student council. “I am a better person thanks to him. He taught me a lot about leadership and how to be successful inside and outside the classroom.
After graduating from Fort Lewis College with a major in psychology and a minor in history, Garland worked in business for nearly 10 years before finding her passion for teaching. He said his interest in education stemmed from his desire to give back to the community, which he had been unable to do in his former position.
“It sounds cliché, but teaching was something that kind of filled a hole in who I was,” he said. “I enjoyed the relationships with the students and enjoyed the content I was teaching.”
Garland taught his students more than just social studies. All of the students in Garland’s class were familiar with what is known as the “fish philosophy”, which used the example of workers at a fish market to show that, whatever the circumstances or the task, people are able to choose their state of mind.
Pisces philosophy is to show up, choose your attitude, be nice, and have fun while doing it.
“Dale was without a doubt the most influential teacher of my life,” said Lexi Behn, a student who met Garland through the SCUBA Club during her freshman year. “The Pisces philosophy, to me, means that you are in charge of your life, you can always choose your attitude, and you can have a positive impact on others. Having embraced this philosophy in my life since grade one, I learned to grow through challenges and overall became a more positive and influential person.
Garland said he will miss the relationships with students and DHS staff members, as well as the student energy and enthusiasm that helped him “keep him young.” He doesn’t know what the next chapter of his life has in store for him, but he’s excited to find out.
“When I think of the moments that really stood out for me, it almost always comes down to helping DHS students experience something or grow in a way that has helped make them better people,” did he declare.
Mattox said Garland had a lasting impact on DHS.
“Overall, DHS is a better place because of him,” she said. “The community and the environment are more caring, compassionate, awkward and accepting of each other because of him.”